Mark was a leader of the Service Workers Union until 1997, and was an awesome advocate for low paid workers, particularly during the tough times of the early 1990s when National set out to destroy workers’ rights and organisation.
I know that Mark didn’t have expectations about being an MP. He campaigned for others and worked within the CTU and the Labour Party for change. But when he decided to put his name forward, there was great pride when he was first elected to Parliament as a list MP in 1996. In 1999, he won the seat of Maungakiekie, and went on to hold a number of Cabinet posts, including Minister of Corrections, Minister of Housing, Minister of Transport, and Minister of Pacific Island Affairs.
Mark and his family experienced the worst of times in the coming years, with the illness of his wonderful wife Carol, after a brain haemorrhage in 2002.
In April 2007 he was bestowed with the Samoan matai title Vui at his grandmother’s village of Lano in Samoa and left parliament in 2008 to spend more time with his family.
Mark was a leader to many, not only in the union, but in the Pacific community. He is sorely missed in the caucus, but he carries on his commitment, as he always has, outside of Parliament.
I was proud to sing “Solidarity” alongside others when he received his well earned Labour Party gold badge.
The best comment came from Mark who said that while the Honours system in NZ has gone silly, the two most important Honours for him are his Life Membership of his union, the Service & Food Workers Union and his Life Membership of his party, the NZ Labour Party.